Scoreboard watching and the playoff chase

Posted by Darren Urban on December 12, 2013 – 10:39 pm

Bruce Arians does not want to talk playoffs. Not yet.

“Somebody asked me once if I’m scoreboard-watching,” Arians said. “I said, ‘Yeah. First down, second down, third down and how much time is left on the clock. I’m calling plays. I’m not looking at who is winning and who is losing.”

But I am not Bruce Arians. So, as many have asked about, here are the playoff scenarios and, realistically, what the Cardinals are looking at going into these final three games. Win just one and it’s over. Win three and the Cards (8-5 right now) might still need help.

If there is a tie with the 49ers for the sixth spot, the 49ers (9-4) would win the tiebreaker. Head to head wouldn’t matter, since the teams would split (the Cardinals can’t afford to lose the finale), and the 49ers in that scenario would win the second tiebreak, winning percentage in the division (San Francisco would be 4-2; The best the Cards can finish in the division even if they win out is 3-3.) With the Niners already a game up in the standings, that’s not the team the Cards probably can catch.

The Panthers (9-4) are a slightly different story. With the head-to-head edge, the Cardinals need to just catch them in the standings. Carolina has a one-game lead; they are home against the Jets and Saints before finishing on the road at Atlanta. The Cardinals, of course, play at Tennessee, at Seattle and home against the Niners.

This is, of course, assuming the Eagles (8-5) win the NFC East and don’t drop behind Dallas for a wild card scenario, since they have the head-to-head tiebreak on the Cards. (If you want to see every single step in the tie-breaking procedures, click here.) UPDATE: And the way I read the tiebreaks, the Cards would lose out in a three-way tie with SF and Carolina.

Bottom line? Every loss is crippling. And wins might not be enough.

“I remember, 2008, 24 years old, (making the postseason) and I’m thinking this is something that is going to happen a lot,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “There are no guarantees in this business. When you have an opportunity you have to make the best of it and we have an opportunity right now. I think everyone in this locker room understands if we win out, we’re going to be in the playoffs. Simple as that.”

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28 Responses to “Scoreboard watching and the playoff chase”

  1. By Red Dead Redemption on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    I don’t want to see this headline of Gives me nightmares just thinking about it.

    “Cardinals go 11-5, best record since 1975. Don’t make Playoffs”

  2. By FromHungary on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    I dont really understand. If we finish 11-5, and 49ers finishes 11-5, and carolina finishes 11-5(lose against saints again), and philly win the nfc east, i think we don’t pass the panthers because” Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2″. So it means that cards are just 3th in the division, and the 49ers and panthers go to the playoff…am i right or am i wrong?

  3. By Darren Urban on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    From Hungary/’Zona —

    RE: Three-way tie

    The way I read the tiebreak procedures, the Cards would still be eliminated because the Niners would still trump the Cards.

  4. By 'Zona Fan on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Darren –

    If the Cards were to finish in a 3-way tie with the 49ers and Panthers at the end of the year (unlikely, I know, but just curious), how would the tiebreakers work? (head to head: Cards beat Panthers, Panthers beat 49ers, 49ers beat Cardinals) Would the Cards make the playoffs?

  5. By georgiebird on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Glad to see you guys are coming to the conclusions I talked about months ago. The NFC West will cause the Cardinals problems for years to come. Division records and conference records will be negatively impacted because of the four games with the Niners and Seahawks. The only reason for hope is we do hold the tie-breaker against Carolina -and that was our best game.
    I only see the lucky Panthers winning one of the remaining three games-but I also think the Cardinals will stumble with this difficult season ending schedule that includes inclement weather in Tennessee.
    Arians is a big plus over Whiz but the team has to get markedly better to overcome these divisional games.

  6. By Darren Urban on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: Division

    Wait — you said the NFC West was going to be difficult because the Seahawks and 49ers are good young teams?

    I can’t believe no one else thought of that.

  7. By michael on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Ironically it actually helps us if the Niners go 2-1 (wiht the loss to us). That makes it just us and CAR.. if we end up with a two way tie between us, we win the tiebreaker.. so cheer on the Jets this week and Saints next week!!! (That gives us the ability to go 2-1 and still make the playoffs)..

    But if we are 10-6 and CAR is 10-6 we need SF to be 11-5, otherwise we lose the 3 way tie.

  8. By georgiebird on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Yes, I do think a lot of guys are running around here with rose-colored glasses hoping that the Niners and Seattle will disappear. Injuries may hurt the 9ers and Seahawks in years to come- but barring those injuries, the Cards can’t just get a little better each year and hope for post season play.
    Things like trading Larry have to be put on the table (and should have been already), in order for the Cardinals to have realistic post season expectations.
    No, Darren, I’m not the only one who knows the NFC West is difficult, but I may be one of the few who is willing to deal with it -as opposed to just accepting it.

  9. By Darren Urban on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: NFC West

    This is fascinating to me.

    Deal with what? You have zero control over any of this. None of us do.

  10. By 'Zona Fan on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply


    What the heck, man? Are you secretly a 49ers or Seahawks fan screwing around our messaging boards? Dude, nobody is saying those teams aren’t good and that we won’t have to beat them at some point! Honestly, I think we’ve improved enough over the course of the season to give both those teams a tough game when we play them.

    They may have more talent than us right now – but not by much. Their advantage is the time they’ve had to gel over the past couple of years, whereas we’ve had to work with a (mostly) whole new coaching staff and roster this year. We can compete in the NFC West.

  11. By John The Draft Guy on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply


    How does trading Fitz make us better?

    Let’s say we get a first and a third for him. We still need another WR. And don’t think for one minute that Roberts or a rookie is going to fill the huge shoes missing.

    OK, so we have no Fitz and we have two 1’s. We take a LT and a CB in the first and a WR in the second.

    Or we keep Fitz and draft a Lt in the first an a CB in the second. Which team is better?

    Maybe you are looking at salary cap? A renegotiated contract with Fitz will lower his cap number. I believe Fitz has at least 5-6 more years in him. Adding years and bonuses would not hurt us. Also, if his contract was like this in 5 years, we could cut him and save 5 million. It is very smart to extend him out.

    As for the niners and seahawks, you know guys like Sherman and Earl Thomas, QB Russel Wilson, Russel Okung, Goldin Tate, ect for the Seahawks and Kaepernick, Bowman, Iupati, Anthony Davis, Aldon Smith and others are all going to want to get paid soon.

    One of the issues of drafting well and having a good young team is everyones contract starts coming up at the same time and you are left scrambling to find ways to keep guys who want big money. For instance, Sherman is going to be looking at Revis and PP contracts and saying I want that or more. Earl Thomas is going to want a huge deal as he is a probowler and Russel Wilson will need to get Drew Brees money the way he is going after 2014.

    Our team improved greatly from last year to this year. If the cards have another solid draft and offseason, we will be right in the fight with those guys.

    The niners might have to look at say Patrick Willis and say, can we keep two highly paid ILBs when Willis is starting to get injured. How long can we pay Justin Smith when Aldon Smith is sacking everything in sight for 3 years.

    Windows open, windows close. The cards were up in 2008 and 2009, then the niners and now the seahawks. We are moving in the right direction.

  12. By Shayawn on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    We want jets to lose against the saints. We want Saints to beat the Panthers, we want Jets to beat the panthers, basically we want Saints to win that devision not the panthers, because saints beat us, we beat the panthers.If Saints beat the Panthers next week, and we win this week, we are tied. But the Jets can pull an upset on the Panthers this week, then the saints beet the panthers next week. We would be able to afford to lose against the Seahawks, and still be tied with the panthers. It could happen. But I dont think the Jets will win. But I pray they do. Plus Saints will play lights out because they have to just to win the devision and possibly get a bye and home field This is the only chance we have, we are literally chasing the panthers, even if we win out, and tie with the 49ers, they will win the tie breaker, because they would have more devision wins. So Panthers is the only games we need to be watching, besides winning ours. Thats it lol

  13. By georgiebird on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    re: dealing
    Read the posts here- guys are talking about going 11-5- are they for real? And then “Zona Fan” comes along saying “they have more talent then us right now-but not by much”. He fails to realize that most of the talent differential comes at the QB position-and that differential will get bigger with time.
    If we can’t get a franchise QB in here, then deal with the fact that the Cards won’t be getting into the playoffs for a while. Or deal with the situation by making some bold moves (no, not getting Kolb back) that no one seems willing to make and that includes the fans and the FO.

  14. By lake havasu joe on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Georgie man quit being a downer no one thought the ravens or steelers would fall behind the bengals or browns for decades to come injuries coaching changes free agent signings and not getting signed, we call these intangibles and they are why the NFL are so great a single offseason can topple a powerhouse, so can a string of bad luck or guys getting to big for their britches, watch the oilers special that just aired. Bottom line is nothing is set in stone, drug problems plaguing Seattle or Kap continuing to digress or Kiem continuing to make great choices could have us in the driver seat as soon as next year.

  15. By georgiebird on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    @ John the Draft Guy
    The real good QBs don’t move around as much as your flawed post seems to infer. Eli, Rivers, Brady, Rodgers, Romo, Big Ben, Flacco, Stafford have played with one team and Brees, Peyton have played for two for other reasons. So, real good teams find a way to keep the good ones. By skimming over the QB differences you show how little you know
    Yes, teams do lose players as will the Cardinals. Some of the Cards best performers this year will probably not be here or greatly diminished in 2 years such as Abraham, Dansby, DD and Palmer. We can’t lose any pro bowl players because we don’t have any.
    So stick to the draft, that’s more than enough for you to handle.

  16. By John The Draft Guy on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Kaepernick has less TDs, a 1000 yards less, a much lower comp ratio and when you look at the last 6 games Palmers 12 tds to Kaepernicks 8 tds.
    Palmer is 5-1, Kaep is 4-2

    Russel Wilson is one of the top QBs in the league and when he finishes his third year, he will be paid like one. The Seahawks are rolling because of him.
    But looking again at the last 6 games
    Wilson has been awesome with 12 tds and 3 picks and a 5-1 record.
    Palmer – 12 tds and 4 picks with a 5-1 record.

    The point is, The cards have a QB who can win. He could be solid for the next 3-4 years. During that time, the cards should draft a QB to sit and learn under him. Why cant they find a young QB?

    I hate fans who connect past issues to the current coaches and staff. Should we have drafted a QB like Foles or Wilson. Of course. I begged to draft a QB for 3 years. I was begging to do whatever was necessary to move up and get Tannehill, who with a bad oline and a weak receiver core, has 3300 yards and 20 tds.

    But that has nothing to do with BA.

    No connection what so ever except it was the cardinals not drafting someone. BA took Palmer and after a shaky start, have come together and are playing well. He started addressing the line by getting rid of Brown and drafting two guards. He wanted to add speed and took Swope, who medically didnt pan out, but did hit with Ellington. Then tried to bring in Mike Smith, and the other two speedsters. He also brought in a LT to help this team. He knows what he needs but you cant fix everything.
    It turns out Bowles has figured out how to use these guys on defense and they brought in guys like Dansby and Abraham while drafting Honey Badger.

    This is his first year Georgie, not his 24th. You cant keep tying him to the past years. The cards are on the right path no matter how much crap you spew out. For a first year coach who came in with a horrible oline and no QB or RB, he has done wonders. Why cant he make the leap next year with another off season?

  17. By John The Draft Guy on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply


    Yep you are right,
    QBs who played for multiple teams never win said Kurt Warner who played for 3 teams (4 teams if you count being cut by GB) and Jim Plunkett says no way can a QB be passed around and win. Oh wait Rich Gannon said guys who struggled elsewhere can’t lead teams to the superbowl. Trent Dilfer chimes in that if you are a past first rounder and cut, you can never win a superbowl. While Chris Chandler said a career backup can never lead a team to the superbowl and Brad Johnson agreed. Doug Williams chimed in to say a disappointing draft pick and African American could never set records in the superbowl.

    So why should anyone ever think Palmer with his third team can lead us to a super bowl?

    BTW, I have had the opportunity to coach a few professional football players down in Port Arthur Texas, not to mention several guys who went off to college. I have had the opportunity to coach with some guys who went on to get scouting positions.

    You are a bitter complainer who doesnt have a clue about anything you are talking about. Time and time again, you spew out nonsense.

    You are truly an idiot.

  18. By Kevin S Mesa on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    Interesting… we can’t finish in a 3-way tie with SF and Carolina or else we lose out to Carolina, but head to head we beat them. So that means 1 of the 2 MUST lose two games.

    That could mean the last week vs. SF ends up not mattering as far as playoffs. If we were to win the next two and were 10-5 (yes, I know, unlikely to beat Seattle, but we have to in order to have a chance) and Carolina were to lose one of their next two (also 10-5), and if SF as expected wins their next two, Carolina plays one of the early games in the final week. If Atlanta beats them and they fall to 10-6, we will beat them out for the final spot due to head-to-head even if we lose to SF. And if the Panthers win, we can’t beat them out in the 3-way tie even if we beat SF. So that last week could all come down to whether Carolina loses, and our game could be meaningless.

    This assumes none of the NFC North or East teams that don’t win their division also end up 10-6, but it looks that way.

  19. By jasonc on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    This is the best blog string EVER!!!!

    I don’t even have to comment…..

  20. By mal on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    The reason folks are talking about the Cards going 11-5 is in the context of playoff scenarios. No one says that it will happen, or that its even likely to happen, but a 3-way tie is a very interesting possibility, and why should the subject be off-limits just becuz Georgie says it is?

    While we dont know how these last 3 games will end up, several things are for certain: one more victory and we’re assured a winning season in BA’s first year. If we can somehow scratch out 2 more wins, we’re going to finish at least 10-6, which most years will get you into the playoffs, and nonetheless is a remarkable turn-around from where we were the last couple seasons.

    You never fail to post your negative BS, which I guess you could justify while we were losing, but now we’re on the brink of a winning season, in the middle of an exciting playoff fight, getting set to battle our top 2 rivals in our last 2 games, and so now all you can do is come on here to whine that we play in a tough division?!

    I guess thats the one last thing thats for certain: no matter how good things get, you’ll still come on here to cry.


  21. By georgiebird on Dec 13, 2013 | Reply

    You seem to make your own incorrect inferences as you go along: However,
    1) I like BA and have always said he’s a very good HC
    2) No one on this blog has been more supportive of the OL than me
    3) My posts have complimented the Cards on a good year no matter what happens the last three games

    When you try to make Palmer better than Kaepernick, you are being stupid. And to feel that Palmer has 3-4 solid years left; well that’s great for SF and Seattle.
    The point of all my recent posts is not the HC or the draft or the free agents; it’s the Cardinals being able to break on top of the two best teams in football. If you think that Carson Palmer is the guy to take us to the top of the NFC West, there’s a very, very small chance you could be right but you will probably be wrong, again.
    And I don’t remember any of your wonderful draft picks but all I heard was OT from the group this year- so maybe Darren can resurrect your plea to move up in the draft and get Tannehill. And in 2011, Von Miller was the pick on this site (Miller is great when no one is blocking him).

  22. By Darren Urban on Dec 14, 2013 | Reply

    Georgie —

    RE: QB

    Here’s my problem with your QB pleas — you say it within a vacuum. OK, the Cards need a long-term QB. I know it, you know it. Keim knows it. But you act like the only reason the Cards don’t have one is because they refuse to get one — not because it’s not that simple. The Cards will get one. But other than Luck, name me one of the early QB picks so many said the Cards must get that has turned out to be gold, other than the unattainable Andrew Luck. (And don’t tell me Kaepernick or Wilson, who no one expected to be like this).

  23. By mal on Dec 14, 2013 | Reply

    For the Cards to make the playoffs, we need either SF or Carolina to lose 2 out of the next 3 games.

    Most folks think our best chance is to catch up with Carolina — since we have the tie-breaker with them, and we lose all possible tie-breakers with SF.

    But the flip side of that way of thinking is that we play SF again, so we have control of handing them a second loss. All we need is for SF to stumble this week in Tampa, and then we control our own destiny again.

    Of course, it is all highly unlikely — no one expects a Bucs victory or the Cards to steal one in Seattle. But no one expected the Chargers to win in Denver, either.

  24. By John The Draft Guy on Dec 14, 2013 | Reply


    Im sure Darren can verify my many post to move up for Tannehill. He even mentioned it in his article after Tannehill threw for 400 yards against us .

    As for Kaep vs Palmer, I never said one was better than the other. I was simply pointing out that Palmer’s stats are better. So if Kaep can lead his team to the superbowl with his stats, why cant Palmer?

    You said;
    @ John the Draft Guy
    The real good QBs don’t move around as much as your flawed post seems to infer. Eli, Rivers, Brady, Rodgers, Romo, Big Ben, Flacco, Stafford have played with one team and Brees, Peyton have played for two for other reasons. So, real good teams find a way to keep the good ones. By skimming over the QB differences you show how little you know

    Um, you seemed to skip right over the fact that all these super bowl QBs played for more than one team: Brad Johnson, Kurt Warner, Jim Plunkett, Rich Gannon, Trent Dilfer, Chris Chandler and Doug Williams.

    No response?

    Remember this also, Elway, Peyton,,Farve, and Brees didn’t win a superbowl till several years in the league. At 34, Palmer has 3-4 years left.

    The cards are 8-5. Do you know how often that happens for the cards? 3 of the last 24 years we hit 9 wins. Once we hit 10 wins in 24 years. This is a huge turn around and the QB deserves much of the credit. I’m not saying Palmer is going to win a super bowl. My point is, Why can’t he? Dilfer did.

  25. By joe67 on Dec 14, 2013 | Reply

    I don’t know which is more fun, this current blog or the playoff hunt we are in!!! LOL. Lets win this week. Biggest game of the year, right now.
    One game at a time.

  26. By Kevin S on Dec 14, 2013 | Reply

    mal —

    Agreed; all the scenarios are pretty unlikely. But the one big difference is we can get in vs. Carolina even if we lose a game — even if it’s the game to SF. To get in vs. SF, we need to win all three (including the one vs. them) and they need to lose another one… or if we only win 2 then they have to lose all 3 which isn’t happening. I’d say it’s more likely that we go 2-1 and Carolina goes 1-2 than that we go 3-0 and SF goes 1-2.

    As previously noted, this assumes we aren’t also in a 3-or-more way tie with one or more of the NFC North or East teams, but that scenario also looks unlikely.

  27. By Kevin S on Dec 14, 2013 | Reply

    We all become fans of the Jets this weekend. Seems pretty implausible though; they now have the 3rd-worst point differential in all of football despite being 6-7. Even Houston and Atlanta are better despite having only 2 and 3 wins, respectively. Carolina meanwhile is 4th best in the NFL, and at home. But if SD can beat Denver, NYJ can beat Carolina.

  28. By mal on Dec 14, 2013 | Reply

    Kevin S-

    Yeah, I imagine most folks would agree our most likely (least un-likely?) path to the playoffs is that we go 2-1 and Carolina goes 1-2.

    I just think its really cool that we have an alternate route where we dont need to wait and depend on other teams — Jets and Saints — to do our dirty work. With one little upset in Tampa this weekend, we are back in control of our own destiny where we dont need to rely on any other team or on anything else happening — just win and we’re in. Would make our last 2 games real exciting.

    The SF game is in Tampa, the Bucs are hot right now (I think theyve won 4 of last 5), and its a 60% chance for rain which maybe makes a more weird/sloppy game possible.

    Anyhow, we need help, from the Jets and/or Bucs. But just so we dont end up with any of this 3-way tie crap, cuz then we really get screwed. To think we could finish 11-5 but still go home — thats the one that blows my mind.

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